Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

July 7, 2012

When you can't swim, how do you cool off?

TRAVERSE CITY — Josh Hansen stopped to mop his brow as he readied his food concessions trailer for the start of the National Cherry Festival.

The trailer, in an unshaded area of the Open Space known as "Gibbyville," is a festival hotspot in more ways than one.

"It can get to be 130 degrees in there," said Hansen, whose family runs Gibby's Concessions. "The sun beating down and that big old fryer cooking at 400 degrees, that generates most of the heat. Then you have four or five people working and that in itself generates heat."

With temperatures soaring into the triple digits and excessive heat warnings and advisories posted for dozens of states — all in the first few weeks of summer — this summer is shaping up to be the hottest on record. All of which makes keeping cool not only more pleasant but crucial.

Hansen helps Gibby's staff beat the heat by allowing them to drink as much as they want from the trailer's soda fountain and water supplies. He also gives them frequent breaks to sit in the shade.

"If it gets too hot we close it," he said of his trailer, one of three family stands parked side-by-side. "It would be nice to put air conditioning in but it would be pointless because the hood fan would suck it out."

Traverse City Beach Bums mascots Suntan and Sunburn spend summertime outdoors cheering on the city's baseball team and its spectators. To stay cooler under the hot sun at Wuerful Park, the pair wear vests filled with ice packs beneath their furry bear costumes, which include body forms to give them that burly shape and padded helmets that support the full head masks.

"They've got the hardest job by far," said Beach Bums Promotions Director Tonya Wuerful. "It's like putting on a snow suit. It's radiating heat."

Wuerful said the park rotates the mascots on hot days, giving them a chance to sit over a hallway air conditioner behind a tunnel area. It also keeps plenty of bottled water on ice for their breaks.

They're drinking a ton before suiting up," she said. "They try to be out as much as possible."

Kayle Noble runs on the Michigan State University cross-country and track-and-field varsity teams, but she can't outrun the heat. So when she's home for the summer she wears brief, synthetic clothing to wick away moisture and tries to run by water where there's a bit of a breeze.

"A lot of people try to avoid running in the middle of the day, especially when it's this hot out," said Noble, an employee of Running Fit. "I run in the morning but sometimes I get a second run in in the middle of the day."

Noble said she stays hydrated throughout the day and carries a bottle of water with her at all times. She also avoids caffeine, which can be dehydrating.

"During runs I use drinking fountains around town but some people get hydration belts that come with bottles that you can fill with water or sports drinks so you can get electrolytes," she said.

High school friends Diondre King and Maayingan Brauker often hang out at the Open Space during the summer, where Brauker takes advantage of nature's refrigerator to stay cool.

"I've been jumping in every hour or so," said Brauker, pointing to nearby Grand Traverse Bay. "It's not that cold."

David Noonan farms with his twin brother, Roger, and their three sons in Maple City. The family spends 12 or more hours a day outdoors, split between walking and riding in open or air-conditioned tractors, Noonan said.

"We have 'Cats, tractors with air conditioning. It helps a lot, no question about it," he said. "When we were kids we didn't have anything like that."

Still, he said the farmers chug at least a gallon of water a day each while managing their cattle, small grains, corn and cherries.

"We drink a lot of water, we always have a hat on and then just a light T-shirt," he said. "You try to stay cool but there's times when there's nothing you can do. You sweat, it's hot. ... It's just part of farming."

Cooling devices run the gamut from tiny personal fans to high performance "personal cooling cloths" consumers can wet, wring out and wave.

Among the newest devices on the market are wireless thermostat control mattresses and mattress cover pads. The ChiliPad and ChiliBed by ChiliTechnology use a water circulation system to regulate the temperature of the sleeping surface — in either single or dual zones — to between 55 and 110 degrees.

A freezer-style strip door keeps the cool inside the National Cherry Festival's Cooling Oasis, said Tamela Rubin, marketing director for Team Bob's Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, which operates the air-conditioned tent. The company also provides air conditioning for the festival's first aid facility and misting for festival races.

"We kind of started it for fun and marketing purposes and then realized how incredibly essential it is," Rubin said. "People are extremely grateful to take the time to cool off a bit because they're in the heat for hours on end."

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